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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Boston Red Sox

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After missing the playoffs in 2010, the Red Sox were on a mission to ensure they would be in the postseason in 2011. With Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford -- two of the offseason's highest-profile acquisitions -- leading the way, the Red Sox strolled into September with an 83-52 record and a 1.5-game lead in the American League East.

The Red Sox would win only seven more games the rest of the way, and they lost out on the wild card spot on the last day of the regular season. Instead of basking in postseason glory, the Red Sox have had to contend with an offseason of disappointment, a scandal revolving around the consumption of fried chicken and beer in the clubhouse, and a relative dearth of splashy roster moves.

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While the team has not reeled in any player of the magnitude of Gonzalez or Crawford, they have been busy in recent months nonetheless. Manager Terry Francona was let go, general manager Theo Epstein left for the Cubs, and Bobby Valentine and Ben Cherington, respectively, replaced them. Then Cherington reworked the bullpen, bringing in Andrew Bailey as the team's new closer (replacing departed free agent Jonathan Papelbon) and Mark Melancon as his set-up man. Ryan Sweeney came over from Oakland along with Bailey and will take over as the starting right fielder.

The Red Sox could be finished with their offseason roster moves, but they are far from done with setting their opening day lineup. Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie shared the shortstop position last season, but both have been dealt away with no clear replacement. Nick Punto, signed as a free agent in December, and Mike Aviles are the top candidates to win the job. Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz are set as the team's top three starting pitchers, but the rest of the rotation is up for grabs. Former set-up reliever Daniel Bard, veteran swingman Alfredo Aceves, offseason pick-ups Aaron Cook, Carlos Silva, Vicente Padilla and Clayton Mortensen, and perennial starter-in-waiting Andrew Miller are all in the mix to fill out the rotation's final two spots. Finally, the Red Sox may need to replace Crawford for a few weeks, as he underwent wrist surgery in January. Cody Ross was signed shortly after Crawford's surgery, and he will likely earn some starts as a fill-in.

The Yankees and Rays arguably got stronger this offseason, so with the Red Sox making few impact moves and still having question marks heading into spring training, they may face an uphill battle trying to avoid a third straight year without a playoff appearance. Should Major League Baseball move ahead with its expanded playoff format, the Red Sox may have a chance. Then again, if Crawford can bounce back from a difficult first year in Boston, or if the team can manage to solidify the rotation in the absence of departed Tim Wakefield and injured John Lackey (Tommy John surgery), they may still manage to get into the postseason, even without the help of an additional spot.

Sleeper ... Ryan Sweeney, OF

The arrival of Sweeney as the Red Sox's new starting right fielder was met with reactions ranging from yawns to outrage, but few were excited about the development. As a producer of empty batting averages around .290 in Oakland, Sweeney had done little to establish himself over the past few seasons. However, the line-drive hitting outfielder was penalized by playing his home games in Oakland, but in Fenway Park, Sweeney gets a double-hitter's nirvana as his new home park. If Sweeney was capable of producing a 30-plus doubles season in Oakland, 35 or 40 doubles would not be out of the question in Boston. He still doesn't possess enough home run power to be valuable in Rotisserie leagues, but Sweeney could be a surprise contributor in Head-to-Head formats, where he would be worth a late-round flier or waiver wire pickup.

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Injury-risk sleeper ... Clay Buchholz, SP

Coming off a 2010 campaign in which he won 17 games and compiled a 2.33 ERA, Buchholz was overrated in many quarters heading into 2011. He benefited from an ultra-low home run per flyball rate (5.8 percent) in '10, and sure enough, he gave up long balls more frequently last year. After posting a more modest ERA and missing half of the season with a stress fracture in his back, Buchholz is likely underrated this spring. By all accounts, Buchholz is healthy again, and he could post an ERA in the mid-3.00s, just as he did a year ago. With mediocre strikeout and walk rates, it would be easy to underrate the veteran of five seasons, but he consistently gets outs by inducing grounders and avoiding hard liners. While many owners may pass him over in favor of pitchers who accomplished more last year, Buchholz is still capable of producing like a No. 4 Fantasy starter, and he should be drafted accordingly.

Bust ... Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C

Saltalamacchia had shown the potential to hit for some power in the minor leagues, but prior to last season, he hadn't really delivered on it in the majors. His pace of 16 home runs in 358 at-bats was far better than any ratio he had put up previously, and particularly with a high percentage of short-distance homers, it seems unlikely that he will equal it this year. Salty's 23 doubles were also out of character, though some of those can be attributed to playing home games at Fenway Park. Still, owners should expect a downturn in Saltalamacchia's power and run-production stats this year, which would render him as a low-end option in standard mixed leagues at best.

2012 Boston Red Sox Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Jacoby Ellsbury CF 1 Jon Lester LH
2 Dustin Pedroia 2B 2 Josh Beckett RH
3 Adrian Gonzalez 1B 3 Clay Buchholz RH
4 Kevin Youkilis 3B 4 Alfredo Aceves RH
5 David Ortiz DH 5 Daniel Bard RH
6 Carl Crawford LF Alt Aaron Cook RH
7 Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Ryan Sweeney RF CL Andrew Bailey RH
9 Nick Punto SS SU Mark Melancon RH
Top bench options RP Bobby Jenks RH
R Mike Aviles IF RP Franklin Morales LH
R Cody Ross OF RP Matt Albers RH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 Will Middlebrooks 23 3B Triple-A Triple-A
Middlebrooks hit for power in the Eastern League, which is no mean feat. He will need to prove himself in Triple-A, but a promotion to Boston could happen late in 2012.
2 Ryan Lavarnway 24 C Majors Triple-A
Lavarnway is a flyball hitter like Saltalamacchia, but long-term, he should hit with more power and for a higher average. Could steal Salty's job this year.
3 Xander Bogaerts 19 SS Class A Class A
Bogaerts has impressive power for a shortstop, though he may not stay at the position as he progresses through the minors. Still several years away.
4 Anthony Ranaudo 22 SP Class A Double-A
Ranaudo is unlikely to appear in the majors this season, but he could contend for a rotation spot in 2013. He is a worthwhile target in long-term keeper leagues.
5 Matt Barnes 21 SP DNP Class A
The Red Sox chose Barnes with the 19th pick overall in the 2011 amateur draft. The UConn product could rise quickly through the system, though Fantasy owners are unlikely to see him in Boston this year.
Best of the rest: Alex Wilson, SP; Jose Iglesias, SS; Blake Swihart, C; Bryce Brentz, OF; Brandon Jacobs, OF; Garin Cecchini, 3B; Jackie Bradley, OF; Sean Coyle, 2B; Henry Owens, SP; Brandon Workman, SP; Stolmy Pimentel, SP; Christian Vazquez, C; Kolbrin Vitek, 3B; Junichi Tazawa, RP; Lars Anderson, 1B.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Jake Marisnick up, Jacob Realmuto down for Marlins
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:45 pm ET) The Marlins have demoted catcher Jacob Realmuto from Triple-A New Orleans and recalled outfielder Jake Marisnick from the same team.

Realmuto has four hits in 20 at-bats in his big league stints this season. Marisnick spent three weeks in the minors after managing eight hits - all singles - in 47 at-bats with Miami.


Report: Darwin Barney deal to Dodgers complete
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:38 pm ET) The deal of second baseman Darwin Barney from the Cubs to the Dodgers is done, sources have told mlbdailydish.com. Details have yet to be released.

Report: Dodgers set to deal for Darwin Barney
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:33 pm ET) A trade that would send second baseman Darwin Barney from the Cubs to the Dodgers is imminent, per the Chicago Tribune.

Barney was designated for assignment on July 22 after continuing struggles that began in 2013. Barney posted a .230/265/.328 stat line before losing his roster spot.


Slider has become 'go-to pitch' for Hyun-Jin Ryu
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:25 pm ET) Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu is using his slider a season-high 20.9 percent of the time in July, according to BrooksBaseball.net. It's now his second-most used pitch behind his fastball.

Although Ryu has a season-worst 4.45 ERA in five July starts, he is 3-1 and is striking out a season-best 10.2 batters per nine innings this month. Ryu has improved his slider with the help from Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, and it's become an integral part of his repertoire.

"Not just this win, but the last three wins, it’s become a very key part of my pitches," Ryu said through a translator, per The Orange County Register. "It’s become now a pitch I can’t win without.

"After studying video and imitating how (Kershaw) throws the ball and the velocity and the arm angle, I was able to sort of make it my own pitch. Ever since then, it’s been a go-to pitch for me."


Andrew Cashner moving forward in rehab process
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:16 pm ET) Padres starting pitcher Andrew Cashner (shoulder) will throw another bullpen session Tuesday after throwing his first one Sunday since going on the disabled list. Cashner threw 31 pitches Sunday, per MLB.com.

"We'll continue to push him forward," manager Bud Black said.


Jedd Gyorko returns from DL confident he will bounce back
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:13 pm ET) Before landing on the disabled list in early June with a foot injury, Padres second baseman Jedd Gyorko was having a rough run at the plate, batting .162 in 56 games. Though, now that he has returned from the DL, he seems confident his offensive woes are in the past.

"I think my swing is feeling more like it did last year than it has all year," Gyorko said, per MLB.com. "Hopefully, that translates into the big leagues. I'm not worried about what's happened in the past. We have got two months of baseball left.

"I don't know how much luck goes into it. I'm going just try to hit the ball hard. If you hit the ball hard enough times, good things will happen eventually."

Manager Bud Black also seems to have confidence Gyorko will turn it around offensively.

"We need him to hit. ... He's a good hitter," Padres manager Bud Black said. "Where his average is now, do I think he's that kind of hitter? No. He's got a long ways to go to get to his lifetime average. He can play better."


Source: Unlikely Troy Tulowitzki gets dealt this week
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:07 pm ET) The chances of Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki getting dealt before Thursday's non-waiver trade deadline appear to be very slim, according to SBNation.com. A league source told the website said it would take "the offer of the century" in order for a deal to get done by Thursday and "very, very, very highly doubts" Tulowitzki will be traded this week.

Report: Indians willing to listen to offers for Justin Masterson
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:02 pm ET) The Indians are willing to trade starting pitcher Justin Masterson, sources told Yahoo! Sports. The team is in the market for a starting pitcher with arbitration years left in exchange for Masterson, who is due back Friday from a knee injury.

Orioles make roster moves with relievers
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:39 pm ET) The Orioles have placed southpaw reliever T.J. McFarland on the bereavement list and recalled right-hander Preston Guilmet from Triple-A Norfolk.

Guilmet had been sent down on July 22 after spending just two weeks with Baltimore. He has a 5.23 ERA on the season.


Report: Carl Crawford on trading block
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:29 pm ET) Unproductive outfielder Carl Crawford is being offered in trade talks by the Dodgers, per Yahoo! Sports.

Crawford is owed $69.25 million through 2017, which means Los Angeles will likely be forced to pay most of that to any prospective suitor. His stat line of .242/.278/.360 does not warrant that level of income.


 
 
 
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